Will European Hangovers Affect The Big Boys?
With a European interval breaking up an otherwise unrelenting Premier League schedule this week, the league’s also-rans will be hoping weary legs offer some solace this Saturday and Sunday. Indeed, anytime the league’s top dogs are sent away to battle against Europe’s finest, it gives those who failed to qualify a chance to push the pace and pressure some potentially tired legs.
This weekend is one of those times and, as we hurtle towards week nine of the Premier League season, we have some interesting matches to look forward to. With Arsenal, Leicester City, Manchester City and Tottenham all on Champions League duties this week, we could see some unexpected results when the scores start to roll in.
Arsenal vs. Middlesbrough
For Arsenal, a home tie against Middlesbrough should be a fairly routine win. However, if the Gunners’ recovery period from their win over Bulgaria’s Ludogorets doesn’t go to plan, it may give Middlesbrough an opening to snatch a vital point. In fact, one statistic that does appear to be somewhat favourable to Aitor Karanka’s men is their defensive record.
Eleven goals against isn’t bad for a club languishing in 17th; especially when you compare it to Hull’s (16th) 20 against and Stoke City’s (18th) 16 against. What’s even more impressive is that ‘Boro have only conceded two goals more than Arsenal who sit second place in the league.
Unfortunately, as impressive as that fact is, Arsene Wenger’s men have been firing on all cylinders this season. 19 goals in just eight games is a better strike rate than everyone else except Man City (also 19 goals). To add to Arsenal’s attacking prowess, Middlesbrough will be forced into a defensive change on Saturday.
Because Calum Chambers isn’t eligible to play against his parent club (he’s on loan from Arsenal), Karanka will have to find a new partner for Ben Gibson. A competent Daniel Ayala is expected to step into the void, but having to disrupt an already effective partnership against a club like Arsenal certainly isn’t ideal.
With the Gunners posing such a threat in front of goal, Premier League betting markets have them the favourites at 1/4. If you fancy ‘Boro for an upset you’ll get 11/1 with most bookies.
However, if you’re hoping their defence stays strong and Arsenal are hung-over from Europe, the draw at 5/1 is a solid bet.
Tottenham vs. Bournemouth
For Tottenham and Leicester City, tricky Champions League matches could have much more of an impact given their week nine fixtures. Tottenham will have the slightly easier of the two tasks as they travel to 11th place Bournemouth.
With only four goals against, Tottenham are putting on a defensive masterclass this season and with Bournemouth only managing twelve in eight, it’s hard to see how they’re going to find the net in this game. Of course, if they can replicate last week’s 6-1 drubbing of Hull, then it could be an interesting match. But, it’s fair to say that this result has artificially inflated Bournemouth’s goal tally somewhat, which means their 12 goals for doesn’t really tell the full story this season.
The sensible money on this would be Tottenham at even money, but there could be some value in Bournemouth at 11/4 if the Cherries can continue what they started against Hull.
Leicester City vs. Crystal Palace
For defending champions Leicester, this season has provided something of a reality check and it could be that European football is taking its toll on their players. Indeed, in the media this week, Claudio Ranieri has stated that his primary goal is just to survive in the Premier League this season.
That sort of mentality certainly won’t sit well with the Foxes faithful; even if Ranieri meant it in the context of guiding his players to Champions League success.
Unlike other clubs in the competition, Leicester don’t have the same sort of depth in the squad, and that could be starting to tell already. Crystal Palace have never been a pushover, and with the league advantage over Leicester, this could be one of those upsets.
The current betting lines set by our experts have Leicester at 21/20, Palace at 11/4 and the draw at 23/10. For those with an eye on some value this weekend, Palace at 11/4 could be the one to watch.
Man City vs. Southampton
The final game of interest this weekend from our Champions League travellers is Man City vs. Southampton on Sunday.
In contrast to a European clash against Barcelona (where they lost 4-0), a visit from Southampton is certainly not as intimidating. Despite only tasting defeat twice this season, Southampton will likely struggle away to a City side that’s only conceded eight league goals this season.
Of course, if Charlie Austin can clinch another brace in the same way he did against Burnley, the Saints might just be able to sneak a draw. However, with Vincent Kompany now back to full fitness and no other injury concerns in the squad, Pep Guardiola will be confident in his side’s chances.
1/2 on the home win contrasts with 11/2 for the visiting side on this occasion.
Wait a Minute! Chelsea vs. Manchester United
But wait, what about Chelsea vs Manchester United? The 4pm Sunday game will, as always, be a cracker, but this time the odds will favour Chelsea.
11/10 for the home side isn’t too far from the 12/5 line our odds makers have set for United. Despite both sides playing below expectations so far this season, these sorts of fixtures always bring the best out in the game’s finest, and for that reason, 23/10 on the draw doesn’t look half bad.
Posted on October 20th, 2016 by scott
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